By Liya Wegayehu
I struggle with my weight, I always have. And it’s not just me, it runs in my family. We are all big, and some have accepted it and live their lives without any worry about what might happen. Not me, I am always on a diet and staring at my scale religiously. I see girls with ‘good genes’, and I just don’t get it. It breaks my heart when I think that healthy weight is something I may never achieve. My biggest fear is that I will die at a young age because of all the complications of my weight.
Don’t get me wrong, I do lose some weight, but the moment I stop whatever restrictive diet I’m on, the weight piles back on and it does so with a vengeance. I gain twice as much more than I did the first time, and I’m left with an even bigger problem to solve. It is a never ending roller-coaster. How many of you can relate?
Obesity is one of the major public health concerns in the United States. The CDC defines obesity as having a BMI of 30.0 or higher. This means, a person who is 5 feet 4 inches tall is obese if he/she weighs closer to 174 pounds or more. 1 in more than 3 adults are obese and the CDC estimates that between 2017 and 2018 about 42.4% of the US population was obese. That is almost half!
The main causes of obesity are poor diet, inactivity, genetics, and medical problems. It is a risk factor to heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancers. Although it is more prevalent in lower socio-economic communities, people of all age groups, genders, and socio-economic status can experience it.
Obesity has also been linked to Mental illness. According to a study conducted by the national institute of health, obesity is linked to illnesses such as personality disorders, eating disorders, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD). It has also been extensively studied and associated with depression. A more recent reality of this was during the COVID-19 lockdown. At a time when stress, anxiety and depression were at an all-time high, 42% of Americans said they gained weight. A very small study conducted suggested that, during the lockdown, some may have gained over 20 pounds in the year. Obesity is a major public health problem in the US already, so anything making it worse is concerning.
Many organizations are trying to tackle this epidemic, but the one that is making a difference in our community is the Valley Health Metabolic & Bariatric Program. It is the state’s only comprehensive medical & surgical weight loss program.
They are a team of physicians, nutritionists, counselors, nurses and social workers that specialize in treating severe cases of obesity, which they define as 100 pounds or more over the individual’s ideal body weight, and associated risk factors. They utilize the various resources at their disposal to help those in desperate need. The program has non-surgical intervention packages; however, it’s main focus is bariatric surgery.
According to a study from the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Bariatric surgery is considered as a last resort solution for patients who suffer from several chronic diseases in addition to their obesity. In these patients, surgery has shown positive results, more than other weight loss options available. Most other weight loss options take time, something these patients normally don’t have. The complications of accompanying diseases increase the urgency of weight loss. The study showed bariatric surgery patients may lose 29 to 51 percent of their excess body weight within the first seven months, and about 75 percent of excess weight in about a year. Most patients can maintain about 62 percent of their weight loss for 11 to 15 years. Respiratory problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol lessened or totally cleared within a matter of months.
So, if surgery is deemed necessary by the physician and patient alike, the patient will be cared for in an in-patient setting. There are many options to choose from, and the team is there to explain everything so that patients make informed decisions.
On the other hand, if the patient opts for a non-surgical intervention, depending on the need and circumstance of the patient, the team formulates a specialized meal, exercise, and medication (if applicable) regimen and provides the necessary individual and group support and therapy that the patient needs. And the outcomes are amazing! The success stories of the patients that have been helped by this program show the type of positive change Valley Health is bringing to the community.
Obesity is a hard disease to treat because there is a huge amount of shame and stigma attached to it. However, there is hope and there is help. If you know you need help, but you don’t know where to start, just call or go to their website. https://www.valleyhealthlink.com/our-services/metabolic-bariatric-program/ (Links to an external site.)
The information is free, there is no judgement, just support. We all must start somewhere and it’s okay to ask for help. If you have a loved one who is struggling with their weight, show them the website and let them see if it is suitable for them. Programs like the Valley Health Metabolic & Bariatric Facility save lives. And no one should suffer from something that is preventable, treatable and may even be curable. So, let us not wait on our weight, let us act now!